The Senate’s temporary moratorium on earmarks in the federal budget is about to expire, but one senator says he wants to make sure earmarks don’t make a comeback.
“You can’t drain the swamp by feeding pork to the alligators.” —@JeffFlake
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he will propose Tuesday to extend the moratorium on earmark spending through the current two-year session of Congress, by an amendment to Senate Republicans’ rules.
“To address our nearly $20 trillion national debt, Congress needs to focus on eliminating unnecessary spending rather than making wish lists that add to the red ink,” Flake said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “You can’t drain the swamp by feeding pork to the alligators.”
If Flake’s amendment is adopted, a spokesman said, earmarks will be banned in the Senate through 2019.
Earmarks allow taxpayer money to be directed to special interests and projects through the budget.
The Senate’s original ban on earmarks in 2011, like the House’s that same year, will lapse if not renewed.
>>> Conservatives Warn GOP Not to Revive Earmarks in Wake of Trump’s Win
Flake previously opposed earmarks as a House member.
Congress, which meets in two-year sessions, can’t permanently ban earmarks because the rules of an outgoing Congress can’t bind the next Congress.
“The rules are rewritten … every two years with the start of a new Congress,” Rachel Bovard, director of policy services at The Heritage Foundation and a former Senate aide, told The Daily Signal. “Current Congresses can’t bind future Congresses with the same rules. Each Congress gets to choose its own.”
Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, told The Daily Signal that his group “favors a permanent ban written in law.”
That way, Schatz said, “this matter does not come up every two years and Americans can be assured that the shameful pork-barrel era never returns to Washington.”
“When you have earmarks, you have federal tax dollars being spent in a way that is not accountable or transparent,” Bovard said. “If we’re going to reduce the debt, then members have to be accountable for every single tax dollar, where it goes and how it is spent.”
With President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, conservatives such as Flake see the reinstatement of earmarks as counterproductive to creating a more transparent and lean government under a new administration.
“A return to earmarking would delight well-connected special interests, but it would not advance conservative policy priorities,” Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email. Holler added:
And bringing back earmarks by secret ballot behind closed doors would be a rebuke to constituents tired of cronyism and corruption in Washington. Lawmakers should fight [to] deliver on their campaign promises, not flood the swamp.
Doug Sachtleben, director of communications at the Club for Growth, a pro-business group that advocates limited government, said reinstating earmarks should not be open to debate among Republican leaders. But he said he is glad to see Flake’s firm stance.
“Reviving the corrupt cronyism of earmarks shouldn’t even be on a Republican agenda, especially when Senate Republicans have plenty of swamp-draining, pro-growth issues to undertake,” Sachtleben said in an email to The Daily Signal.
“But we’re glad that Senator Flake is there to remind [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and his colleagues to do the right thing and keep the earmark ban in place.”